The Master Key

Page 47

"And here are your food tablets," continued the boy, placing the box upon the table. "I've only enjoyed one square meal since you gave them to me. They're all right to preserve life, of course, and answer the purpose for which they were made; but I don't believe nature ever intended us to exist upon such things, or we wouldn't have the sense of taste, which enables us to enjoy natural food. As long as I'm a human being I'm going to eat like a human being, so I've consumed my last Electrical Concentrated Food Tablet--and don't you forget it!"

The Demon sank into a chair, nerveless and limp, but still staring fearfully at the boy.

"And there's another of your unnatural devices," said Rob, putting the Automatic Record of Events upon the table beside the other things. "What right have you to capture vibrations that radiate from private and secret actions and discover them to others who have no business to know them? This would be a fine world if every body could peep into every one else's affairs, wouldn't it? And here is your Character Marker. Nice thing for a decent person to own, isn't it? Any one who would take advantage of such a sneaking invention as that would be worse than a thief! Oh, I've used them, of course, and I ought to be spanked for having been so mean and underhanded; but I'll never be guilty of looking through them again."

The Demon's face was frowning and indignant. He made a motion to rise, but thought better of it and sank back in his chair.

"As for the Garment of Protection," resumed the boy, after a pause, "I've worn it for the last time, and here it is, at your service. I'll put the Electric Tube with it. Not that these are such very bad things in themselves, but I'll have none of your magical contrivances. I'll say this, however: if all armies were equipped with Electrical Tubes instead of guns and swords the world would be spared a lot of misery and unnecessary bloodshed. Perhaps in time; but that time hasn't arrived yet."

"You might have hastened it," said the Demon, sternly, "if you had been wise enough to use your powers properly."

"That's just it," answered Rob. "I'm NOT wise enough. Nor is the majority of mankind wise enough to use such inventions as yours unselfishly and for the good of the world. If people were better, and every one had an equal show, it would be different."

For some moments the Demon sat quietly thinking. Finally the frown left his face and he said, with animation:

"I have other inventions, which you may use without any such qualms of conscience. The Electro-Magnetic Restorer I offered you would be a great boon to your race, and could not possibly do harm. And, besides this, I have brought you what I call the Illimitable Communicator. It is a simple electric device which will enable you, wherever you may be, to converse with people in any part of the world, without the use of such crude connections as wires. In fact, you may--"

"Stop!" cried Rob. "It is useless for you to describe it, because I'll have nothing more to do with you or your inventions. I have given them a fair trial, and they've got me into all sorts of trouble and made all my friends miserable. If I was some high-up scientist it would be different; but I'm just a common boy, and I don't want to be anything else."

"But, your duty--" began the Demon.

"My duty I owe to myself and to my family," interrupted Rob. "I have never cultivated science, more than to fool with some simple electrical experiments, so I owe nothing to either science or the Demon of Electricity, so far as I can see."

"But consider," remonstrated the Demon, rising to his feet and speaking in a pleading voice, "consider the years that must elapse before any one else is likely to strike the Master Key! And, in the meanwhile, consider my helpless position, cut off from all interest in the world while I have such wonderful inventions on my hands for the benefit of mankind. If you have no love for science or for the advancement of civilization, DO have some consideration for your fellow-creatures, and for me!"

"If my fellow-creatures would have as much trouble with your electrical inventions as I had, I am doing them a service by depriving them of your devices," said the boy.

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